BC Releases Draft Adaptation Guidelines for Sea Dikes and Coastal Flood Hazard Land Use

re-posted from the Climate Change Adaptation Community of Practice (CCACoP) website

On Friday, the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations released the technical reports for the BC RAC projects to update BC’s guidelines for sea dike design and management of coastal flood hazard land use.  These reports have been released as “advice to government” and have not been adopted as government policy at this time.  MFLNO will hold consultation workshops on the reports later this year.  The reports can be viewed on the Flood Safety Section’s website.  Comments on the technical documents can be forwarded to Jesal Shah (jesal.shah@gov.bc.ca).

Please consult the Coastal Cities at Risk (CCaR) project to learn more about Canada’s participation in the International Research Initiative on Adaptation to Climate Change.


Ambitious new program to tackle the problems of food supply, food waste and sustainability

The New York Times’ Green blog argues why we need to think more holistically about the world’s food security in light of a changing and uncertain climate. The article explains that price jumps are attributed to the tight balance between supply and demand, a warming climate, and food waste. Over a billion people over-consume food, which increases the risk of chronic diseases, and about one-third of all food harvested is lost or wasted.

Despite grim forecasts around the state of the world’s food supply, there is always progress being made. The Commission on Sustainable Agriculture and Climate Change has released a report calling for a new program to overcome problems of, and cite opportunities for, food supply, food waste and sustainability. Their report includes several recommendations:

  • Develop specific programmes and policies to assist populations and sectors that are most vulnerable to climate changes and food insecurity
  • Significantly raise the level of global investment in sustainable agriculture and food systems in the next decade
  • Develop specific programmes and policies to assist populations and sectors that are most vulnerable to climate changes and food insecurity
  • Reduce greenhouse gas emissions through sustainable intensification and reducing deforestation
  • Reduce the loss and waste in food systems, targeting infrastructure, farming practices, processing, distribution and household habits

The report says “food insecurity and climate change are already inhibiting human well-being and economic growth throughout the world and these problems are poised to accelerate.”

One of the recommendations pertains to climate change and food insecurity, however the importance of climate adaptation is not immediately visible. As authors like David Lobell et al. suggest, adaptation is a key factor that will shape the future severity of climate change impacts on food production [PDF]. Further, they explain “although relatively inexpensive changes, such as shifting planting dates or switching to an existing crop variety, may moderate negative impacts, the biggest benefits will likely result from more costly measures including the development of new crop varieties and expansion of irrigation”.

Adaptation is indispensable in the mix of strategies needed to alleviate food insecurity problems. The video below from Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) illustrates the topic of food insecurity. The Commission on Sustainable Agriculture and Climate Change’s report can also be found online.

The forthcoming ACT Crops & Food Supply report (due for publication September 2012), authored by Erik Karlsen, will include a roadmap of key climate change issues for agriculture in Canada, as well as identified opportunities for government responses that might enable and support resilience building.

Article written by ACT researcher Timothy Shah


Re-visiting the UK Climate Change Risk Assessment Framework

In late January 2012, the UK released its Climate Change Risk Assessment (CCRA) Government Report. ACT offers a summary of the report here. The release of the CCRA is a bold move, marking the first assessment of its kind for the UK. Given the cyclical nature of the adaptation process, the CCRA will be updated every 5 years, which allows for monitoring, adjustment, and implementation of new information – the crux of good adaptation planning.

The report, authored by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) demonstrates how a national government can play a role in adaptation, not least through undertaking a systematic analysis of climate risks, but committing funding and resources to ensure adaptation is made possible.

This report has direct relevance to ACT and the research we do. The report identifies a number of climate risks — including floods, droughts and hotter summers — that are on the horizon for the UK. The ramifications of these impacts are detailed in the report and are accompanied by a set of recommendations, much like the ACT Climate Change and Water Governance Report (PDF)

The evidence from CCRA will be used to develop the National Adaptation Programme (NAP) which calls for “a society which makes timely, far-sighted and well-informed decisions to address the risks and opportunities posed by a changing climate.”

The ACT report recommends a similar role calling for a non-statutory National Water Commission that would help advance policy reform and champion a new Canadian water ethic. Much like the NAP, such a commission could advance national issues of concern and harness the support of various organizations, governments and stakeholders.

On the surface, the National Water Commission sounds good, but it is only theoretical at this stage. The NAP, conversely, has stated that the national framework can only be developed through harmonized actions by various social actors including local government, businesses and civil society. Inputs from various actors not only lead to buy-in, but demonstrate the collective nature of adaptation planning. Using a collaborative approach, NAP will advance the urgent issues identified in their report, and operate on 5-year cycles.

The UK’s CCRA and its development of the NAP offer valuable lessons for Canada. For instance, undertaking such a comprehensive analysis of potential climate impacts for the entire nation has fomented an interest to move forward. This required leadership and commitment at the national level (DEFRA) to spearhead the process.  Canada’s climate impacts are regionalized due to our vast geography and thus it may be more challenging for the national government to coordinate a unified approach. However, as the CCRA experience demonstrates, by identifying the issues of concern, this may act as a platform to generate policy reform to act now, as opposed to later.

Please read the full CCRA report for more details.

article written by ACT researcher Timothy Shah


Water Infrastructure Planning in an Era of Climate Change

Brett Walton from Circle of Blue writes a compelling story about the importance of infrastructure planning in an era of climate change. His article gets at the heart of climate adaptation in raising questions about the benefits of experimenting with adaptation now, as opposed to acting in an uncertain future.

With a focus on the U.S., the article summarizes some of the major impending climate threats to urban water utilities and infrastructure. While adaptation planning is only beginning to surface, some utilities like the Deer Island Sewage Treatment Plant were thinking about this challenge in the 1980s.

Deer Island was one of the first places to incorporate climate change projections into its sewage plant’s design. Many utilities in the U.S. are currently operating on tight budgets largely concerned about today’s issues. Some recognize the long- term challenges associated with changes in rainfall patterns and river flow and how this will require modifications to current practices. However, without sufficient funds to design and account for these changes, the focus remains on immediate concerns.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has collected data from states on capital needs for water and sewer infrastructure. Their most recent figures as of 2007-2008 estimate that utilities would need to spend “$US 298 billion on wastewater and $US 335 billion on drinking water over the next two decades”, not accounting for the potential impacts of climate change.

The essence of the article centres on building climate resiliency in water utilities. Such resiliency may be achieved through a number of projects including green infrastructure investments, expanded stormwater retention and desalination plants. Despite tight budgets, several utilities across U.S. cities are beginning to experiment with some of these adaptation actions.

Seattle has developed a climate assessment program that has identified various climate risks to the city. Collaborating with the Climate Impacts Group at the University of Washington, the city released a climate plan in 2006. Among its objectives, Seattle intends to buffer itself from long-term changes in water availability through reducing consumption by nearly 8% of peak summer use by 2030. New York City has been another model of good adaptation planning. Its green infrastructure program is just one example of the city’s commitment to addressing this challenge.

Walton’s article also contains an interactive map profiling U.S. cities; their risks to climate change and their plans for action. It highlights the importance of experimenting with non-conventional adaptation measures — such as green infrastructure –to address short-term and long-term risks around climate change as opposed to strictly resorting to hard infrastructure such as levees and dikes.

ACT released its Climate Change Adaptation and Water Governance report in October 2011, authored by eminent Canadian water expert, Bob Sandford. The report calls for the design and sustainability of water infrastructure based on ecological principles and adaptation. For instance, integrating rainwater management with wastewater management to reduce costs of treatment and energy required to transport water and treat sewage.

There are many promising ideas in adaptation planning and countless cities that are beginning to experiment with cost-effective strategies in spite of constrained budgets. Water will be subject to increasing demands and pressure for ecological services in the coming 100 years. Small changes and innovation in water utilities can go a long way in fostering resilience to and leadership around climate change adaptation planning.

article written by ACT researcher Timothy Shah


IPCC launches Special Report on Extreme Weather Events

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its Special Report on Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation (SREX) on 28 March.

The report assesses the evidence that climate change has led to changes in climate extremes and the extent to which policies to avoid, prepare for, respond to, and recover from the risks of disaster can reduce the impact of such events. Download the IPCC press release (PDF) on the report, and visit http://ipcc-wg2.gov/SREX/ for the report itself.


Deborah Harford featured at SFU Brown-bag Lunch Dialogues, April 10

Win-Win Solutions: Smart Approaches to Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation?

Carbon Talks, and PICS are pleased to host a brown-bag lunch dialogue featuring Deborah Harford, director of the Adaptation to Climate Change Team at SFU. Join us on April 10 from 12:30 to 01:30 PM at the SFU Harbour Centre, room 1600. 

As executive director of ACT, Deborah Harford is responsible for development of the initiative’s pioneering vision and its unique partnerships with the public and private sectors, as well as overall coordination and management of the program. She also directs and produces ACT’s pioneering policy recommendations for effective adaptation strategies at all levels of government, as well as communication and promotion of the program’s outcomes.

Through Deborah’s efforts, ACT has created networks between local, national and international climate change research practitioners, NGOs, industry representatives, all levels of government, First Nations groups and local communities. Deborah’s work with ACT has gained her national recognition as a resource for those seeking information on climate change adaptation and practical coping strategies.

The event is free, but seating is limited.

To register http://tourfinale-eorg.eventbrite.ca/?ebtv=Chttp://i.sfu.ca/dljYtv

This event will also be live-webcasted: http://www.tlcentre.sfu.ca/broadcast/


Rising global temperatures and extreme weather: a time to act

2011 was a year of extreme weather events around the world with the average global temperature setting a new high. 2011 was the ninth warmest year in 132 years of record keeping. Janet Larsen and Sara Rasmussen from the Earth Policy Institute report that extreme weather is now upon us, and a warming climate may exacerbate this.

We have blogged about the impacts of climate change on global cooling in the Northern Hemisphere pointing to further variation in how our planet is changing. Despite the global cooling that has been precipitated by Eurasian snow cover, and the La Nina atmospheric and oceanic circulation pattern, global temperature is on the rise.

Unsurprisingly, the abundance of carbon emissions we produce has been a major source of this warming by pushing the Earth’s climate out of its normal range. This is referred to as the “new normal” or non-stationarity (please see the ACT Climate Change Adaptation and Water Governance report for further discussion). Extreme weather in the form of stronger floods and longer lasting droughts are among the events associated with the new normal as the Earth becomes warmer.

Worldwide, countries experienced rising temperatures in 2011: from Kuwait’s 53.3 degrees Celsius temperature (highest ever on Earth in the month of August), to continental weather stations in the U.S. hitting record highs, to the world’s hottest 24-hour minimum on record, 41.7 degrees Celsius in Oman in June 2011.

The Earth Policy Institute report documents a number of extreme weather events from around the world that took place in 2011 – many of which are thought to be attributable to higher global temperatures. Perhaps the most egregious of the damage resulted from flooding in Thailand where one third of the country’s provinces became submerged. Total damages exceeded $45 billion dollars (14% of national GDP) and will go down as the most expensive natural disaster in the country’s history.

The practice of adaptation sees climatic change via rising temperatures as an opportunity to mobilize governments on a fresh direction. Initiatives such as the Durban Adaptation Charter (PDF) outline a political commitment among municipalities to strengthen local resilience to climate change.

In Canada, groups like ACT are pressing the federal government to consider recommendations such as an integrated flood prediction, prevention and management program. ACT’s 2009 report Climate Change Adaptation and Extreme Weather outlines a number of recommendations to address extreme weather events. Critical to the success of these recommendations will be institutions that are willing to embrace new programs and policies that may help alleviate the impacts of extreme weather.

article written by ACT researcher Timothy Shah


Exploring Energy: Conversion, Consumption and Conservation

Do your children want to know about green energy?

SFU-Science in Action and PICS Outreach Program for Kids bring you the Science in Action energy workshop

Exploring Energy: Conversion, Consumption and Conservation

Children from grades 4 to 7 have a hands-on opportunity to explore different ways to generate “green” energy using wind, sun and water as a power source.

The program looks at topics such as generating electricity from renewable sources, finding out how much energy is required to light different kinds of bulbs while pedaling a bike, and learning about the effects of green house gases on the climate. Download the PDF poster.

Learn more about the workshops, booking for your school group, or volunteering with PICS at http://www.sfu.ca/climatechange/pics-sfu/initiative.html


Getting pro-active on climate change and population displacement

A cyberseminar organized by the Population-Environment Research Network in November 2011, brought together academics and practitioners from around the world to discuss the topic of population displacement. Each expert offered a research study they had been participating in to advance the knowledge surrounding population displacement and climate change. The cyberseminar addressed how communities can better prepare for population displacement and resettlement associated with climate change and large climate mitigation and adaptation projects.

Population displacement resulting from climate change is already a significant concern for developing countries. Grim forecasts from various organizations suggest that as many as 1 billion humans could be displaced from climate change impacts by 2050. Groups like the Population-Environment Research Network are dedicated to gathering the world’s top thinkers on how to alleviate these concerns.

The cyberseminar addressed two types of future resettlement: one stems from direct climate impacts, the other is resettlement owing to large scale mitigation and adaptation projects that are intended to alleviate climate change risks such as coastal defences. This PDF presentation is an informative slide show on climate change and coastal defences.

The topic of resettlement often elicits ambivalence about how many people could be relocated and the potential ensuing conflicts. The cyberseminar explored why it is critical to think about this topic to improve outcomes for resettled communities, particularly concerning planning and capacity building. Participants also discussed adaptive responses that have been used in regions suffering from climate change such as investments in existing infrastructure to improve resilience against disasters.

Questions presented included:

  • Under what circumstances could displacement and resettlement due to direct climate impacts be necessary?
  • Which countries or regions (or types of regions) are most likely to require resettlement?
  • The study of displacement and resettlement has been fragmented among different agencies (e.g. refugee agencies, disaster response agencies, and development agencies) and corresponding research communities. Given the likelihood displacements will increase with climate change, how do we foster truly interdisciplinary research that borrows from all branches?

ACT will study climate change adaptation and population displacement as its seventh session in 2013. The time is right for Canada to prepare for this new reality at all levels of government in order to capitalize opportunities and offset impending challenges.

article written by ACT researcher Timothy Shah


Deborah Harford’s Water Governance webinar for Community of Practice now online

On March 27, 2012, ACT Executive Director Deborah Harford delivered a webinar for the national Community of Practice (CoP) on the topic of Climate Change Adaptation and Water Governance.

A complete recording of the webinar is now online along with the PDF slides from Deborah’s presentation.

Learn more about the Climate Change Adaptation Community of Practice (CCACoP).


Digital Coast Partnership Group offers “Roadmap” assessment methodology training

Roadmap for Adapting to Coastal Risk Developed and delivered by the NOAA Coastal Services Center

This three-hour training introduces the “Roadmap” assessment methodology designed to help communities characterize their exposure to current and future hazard and climate threats and assess how existing planning and policy efforts may integrate this information to address community issues.

Three hours of certification maintenance credits for this course have been approved by the American Institute of Certified Planners.

The training is offered virtually by the NOAA Coastal Services Center. Online registration is available.

Upcoming Virtual Roadmap Trainings are scheduled for May 15, 2012, 1 to 4 p.m. Eastern Time

Further information including participant requirements and upcoming additional training can be found at the Digital Coast Partnership Group website.


PICS Climate News Scan for 27 March 2012

Download the PICS Climate News Scan for 27 March 2012 produced by ISIS, Sauder School of Business, University of British Columbia in partnership with the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions (PICS). ??The PICS Climate News Scan is a weekly summary of the major climate-change related science, technology, and policy advances of direct relevance to the BC provincial and Canadian federal governments and more generally to Canadian businesses, government and civil society.

Complementing the News Scan is the PICS Briefing Note Service. This service provides timely and concise analysis, as well as suggested policy action, on issues related broadly to BC climate change mitigation and adaptation.

This week’s Climate News Scan includes:

Research Theme I: The low carbon emissions economy

  • OECD: Acting now will prevent environmental and economic crunch

Research Theme II: Sustainable communities

  • More than new technology required to decarbonize communities

Research Theme III: Resilient ecosystems

  • Cost of ocean degradation could reach $2 trillion per year

Research Theme IV: Social mobilization

  • Are young adults desensitized to environmental issues?

Research Theme V: Carbon management in BC forests

  • Beetle’s breeding doubled by warm springs

CASE STUDIES / Facing the Elements: Building Business Resilience in a Changing Climate

March 22, 2012 release from David McLaughlin, NRT President & CEO

The National Round Table (NRT) is pleased to present the first of three reports that show how businesses are adapting to climate change. This compilation of Canadian and international case studies, “Case Studies / Facing the Elements: Building Business Resilience in a Changing Climate“, profiles the adaptation experiences of thirteen pace-setting companies.

Canadian businesses are on the frontline of climate change because changing weather and other climate occurrences can affect their infrastructure assets, their supply chains, their reputation, and their bottom lines. To cope, business managers in Canada are looking for practical tools, best practices, and lessons learned to help them understand climate change risks and opportunities to their business, and develop and implement cost-effective strategies to adapt. Our report shows how this is being done.

Each case study demonstrates how top firms are integrating adaptation thinking into their business planning and decision making. These stories shed light on what motivates business action, how they benefit, and how governments can help.

Canadian businesses need to prepare and build resilience throughout their enterprises in order to succeed in a climate changing world. These real world examples show that adapting to climate change just makes good business sense.


Looking at the future of our food

By Christina Toth, The Abbotsford, Mission Times

Climate change will be – is – changing the foods we eat in Canada.

Ask local farmers, and they know their growing seasons are shifting.

Chilliwack corn and blueberries are some of the common foods we find in the Fraser Valley that may be affected, and what of the wild foods that flavour our Canadian cuisine?

How will these adapt to warming trends in our northern climes?

This topic will be addressed by the next speaker for the UFV Centre for Environmental Sustainability seminar talks – Dr. Lenore Newman, a specialist in environmental studies with a strong interest in sustainability. She joined the University of the Fraser Valley last fall as its second Canada Research Chair.

Newman is a proponent of protecting our food security in Canada, and particularly in this region.

While we take pride in our local Fraser Valley foods, nothing is guaranteed unless steps are taken to preserve the farmland and wild habitat needed to produce food, she said in the fall 2011 issue of UFV’s Skookum magazine.

Canada’s cuisine – things like wild salmon, wild berries, the crops we grow – reflects the fact we live in a cold climate. But climate change poses a threat to the economic and cultural continuity of these key products.

Over the last six months Newman has been working in partnership with Simon Fraser University to plan climate adaptation strategies for key Canadian foods.

In her presentation she will describe examples of resilient food system planning from across the country.

Newman’s discussion on From a Cold Country: Climate Adaptation and Canadian Culinary Identity takes place at UFV’s Abbotsford campus on March 20 at 7 p.m. (tonight), in Room B101, the lecture theatre.

The lecture is free for the public to attend.

UFV is at 33844 King Road, Abbotsford.



ACT hosts Climate Change Impacts on Coastal Cities conference

ACT’s Climate Change Impacts on Coastal Cities conference was held March 7-9, 2012 in Vancouver at the SFU Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue.

The proceedings were chaired by Dr. Gordon McBean, UWO, Principal Investigator for the Tri-Council funded Coastal Cities at Risk project, which twins Metro Vancouver with Manila, Bangkok and Lagos, and hosted by Deborah Harford, Executive Director of ACT and leader of the project’s Metro Vancouver node.

The Coastal Cities at Risk (CCaR) project research team, including its international representatives, met with local experts to learn about current and projected climate sea level rise, river flooding, salinization, extreme weather responses, and policy challenges and responses, in the Metro Vancouver region.

The event marks the first year of the CCaR project, which continues for another four years in a collaborative process that will see the partners sharing resources and developing responses with the help of local experts, decision-makers and practitioners in each country.

The following presentations were delivered:

Dr. Gordon McBean, Principal Investigator, Coastal Cities at Risk (CCaR)
The CCaR Project (PDF presentation)

Tina Neale, Climate Change Adaptation Advisor, BC Ministry of Environment
Provincial Government Planning for Coastal Impacts in BC (PDF presentation)

Ellen Pond, Researcher, Collaborative for Advanced Landscape Planning, UBC
Modeling Extremes: Visual Projections for Delta and Community Engagement (presentation not available)

Margot Daykin, Sustainability Manager, City of Richmond
Local Challenges and Opportunities in Coastal Adaptation (PDF presentation)

Dr. Slobodan Simonovic (and RAs), Professor, UWO
Development of the CCaR Urban Resilience Model (PDF presentation)

Steve Litke, Fraser Basin Council
“Climate Impacts and Adaptation Where the River Meets the Sea” (PDF presentation)

Hugh Fraser, Deputy Director of Engineering, Corporation of Delta
Building Adaptive Capacity in Delta (PDF Presentation)

Dr. Tim Takaro, Professor, Health Sciences, SFU
Coastal Vulnerabilities for Human Health and Water Resources in a Changing World (PDF presentation)

The conference also included:

  • A public panel and dialogue featuring brief presentations on coastal hazards, and offer the public an opportunity to engage with experts and each other on the challenges we face and possible solutions.
  • A dinner discussion with local decision makers and thought leaders.
  • An open space discussion with CCaR team members and First Nations representatives.

ACT and the CCaR project team would like to thank:



Rising seas, storm surges due to climate change await Lower Mainland

The Georgia Straight By Matthew Burrows, March 8, 2012

Delta, Richmond, and “about one-third of Surrey” are “implicated” in the sea-level rise and extreme storm surges due in the region as a result of climate change, according to Deborah Harford.

However, the executive director of SFU’s Adaptation to Climate Change Team told the Straight, “I actually have a bit of a slogan at ACT, which is that we are all tired of doom and gloom, so let’s cheer and steer, because there is a lot that we can do.”

Harford and her team convened a two-day workshop with local and international experts whose cities face a varying degree of risk due to rising sea levels. On Thursday (March 8), from 7 to 9 p.m., at SFU Harbour Centre (515 West Hastings Street), the public will be able to see and ask questions of these experts.

Vancouver is one of 52 cities at risk, Harford noted, adding that the city ranks higher as a result of its affluence and the financial hit it will take in the event of seas rising.

So far, Harford said, the “maximum level” of sea-level rise forecast in Vancouver by the end of the century is two metres. However, extreme high tides combined with “pronounced storm-surge events” could create the kind of conditions seen in a four-metre rise scenario, she added.

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